Preliminary hearing for Arberry scheduled for Sept. 8


A former lawmaker facing some of the harshest charges leveled against a Nevada state legislator in decades is due in court Sept. 8 for a preliminary hearing.

Former Assemblyman Morse Arberry, D-Las Vegas, stands charged with failing to report more than $120,000 in campaign contributions and diverting the money to a personal checking account.

Justice of the Peace Diana Sullivan set the preliminary hearing date Friday morning.

Arberry did not show up in court Friday. But during a brief interview after the hearing, his attorney, Mark Bailus, defended the longtime chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee.

"We are confident that Mr. Arberry did not commit any crimes, and the evidence will show that," Bailus said.

Chief Deputy Attorney General Thom Gover, who filed the six-count complaint against Arberry, agreed to let Arberry voluntarily appear at the county jail for booking without being arrested.

Arberry, who hasn't responded to repeated requests for interviews, is free on his own recognizance. Gover said he and Bailus have discussed potential plea agreements to resolve the case, but he wouldn't go into detail.

"Everything is on the table," Gover said.

The criminal complaint filed June 24 charges Arberry with three counts of perjury, each carrying up to a four-year prison term, and three counts of filing a false report, each with up to a five-year prison term.

Legislative observers say the complaint represents the most serious charges stemming from a high-ranking state lawmaker's time in the Legislature since 1983. That is when former Sen. Floyd Lamb, D-Las Vegas, a longtime Senate Finance Committee chairman, was convicted of corruption charges and sentenced to three years in prison.

The complaint accuses Arberry of depositing campaign checks into a personal checking account and failing to report the contributions on campaign reports.

It stops short of charging Arberry with embezzlement, theft or similar crimes that would be harder to prove and potentially allow more avenues for the defense.

"These records included copies of many checks made payable to the 'Committee to Elect Morse Arberry,' 'The Morse Arberry Campaign' and/or similarly named payees," the complaint read. "Said checks had been deposited into Arberry's personal checking account. While some of the contributions had been reported, many had not been reported and in fact were never reported on subsequent campaign contribution reports."

A list of unreported contributions attached to the complaint includes large amounts from influential political and business entities, including utility, mining, gambling, liquor, banking, lobbying and medical companies, among others, and totaled $121,545.

Arberry was elected to the Legislature in November 1984 and served until August 2010. He worked as a lobbyist during the 2011 legislative session.

Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at bspillman@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3861.

 

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